From disrupted to disruptor
From disrupted to disruptor: Reinventing your business by transforming the core
By Peter Dahlström, Liz Ericson, Somesh Khanna, and Jürgen Meffert
Companies must be open to radical reinvention to find new, significant, and sustainable sources of revenue.
When Madonna burst onto the scene in the early 1980s, there was little reason to suspect that she’d have more than her allotted 15 minutes of fame. But in the three decades since her debut album, she has managed to remain a media icon.
Her secret? “Madonna is the perfect example of reinvention,” Janice Dickinson, renowned talent agent, has said. Fittingly, the name of Madonna’s sixth concert tour was “Reinvention.”
Madonna may seem like an unlikely touchstone for modern businesses, but her ability to adapt to new trends and set some others offers a lesson for companies struggling with their own digital revolutions. That’s because the digital age rewards change and punishes stasis. Companies must be open to radical reinvention to find new, significant, and sustainable sources of revenue. Incremental adjustments or building something new outside of the core business can provide real benefits and, in many cases, are a crucial first step for a digital transformation. But if these initiatives don’t lead to more profound changes to the core business and avoid the real work of rearchitecting how the business makes money, the benefits can be fleeting and too insignificant to avert a steady march to oblivion.
Simply taking an existing product line and putting it on an e-commerce site or digitizing a customer experience is not a digital reinvention. Reinvention is a rethinking of the business itself. Companies need to ask fundamental questions, such as, “Are we a manufacturer, or are we a company that enables customers to perform tasks with our equipment wherever and whenever they need to?” If it’s the latter, then logistics and service operations may suddenly become more important than the factory line. Netflix’s evolution from a company that rented DVDs to a company that streams entertainment for a monthly subscription to one that now creates its own content is a well-known example of continuous reinvention.
Reinvention, as the term implies, requires a significant commitment. From our Digital Quotient® research, we know that digital success requires not only that investment be aligned closely with strategy but also that it be at sufficient scale. And digital leaders have a high threshold for risk and are willing to make bold decisions.1But companies don’t have to wait far in the future to realize those benefits. We’ve found that 60 to 80 percent of total improvement targets can be achieved within about three years while also laying the foundation for future growth.
For all the fundamental change that digital reinvention demands, it’s worth emphasizing that it doesn’t call for a “throw it all out” approach. An engine-parts company, for example, will still likely make engine parts after a digital reinvention, but may do so in a way that’s much more agile and analytically driven, or the company may open up new lines of business by leveraging existing assets. Apple, with its move from computer manufacturer to music and lifestyle brand through its iPhone and iTunes ecosystem, reinvented itself—even as it continued to build computers. John Deere created a whole series of online services for farmers even as it continued to sell tractors and farm equipment.
There are many elements to a transformation, from end-to-end journey redesign and embedding analytics into processes to open tech platforms. They require a myriad of capabilities, from artificial intelligence and agile operations to data lakes, cloud-based infrastructure, and new talent. Many of these elements have been written about extensively, and each can absorb a significant amount of executive time. What’s often missing, however, is a comprehensive view of how an organization sets the right ambition, how to architect the right elements for the transformation, then how to systematically and holistically undertake the change journey.